Monday, January 26, 2015

What Quran says about Free-will.



We, as created beings, are given some amount of Free-will to choose our own course of action. Many religions, ideologies and philosophies define the nature of human actions and their accountability in terms of rewards and punishments. As a lay-person all we understand is that whatever we choose we are responsible and accountable for it. But by the immense Grace and Mercy of the Creator, we have not been left to think like a lay-person alone, rather God the Almighty wants us to understand our importance as human beings and our role as the believing servants. We have been given the guide to understand our life in this world and its implications in the Hereafter. As we read the Quran, we understand that no nation was left without sending a messenger to deliver the message of God. He sent Prophets and books to spread the message of Truth and to guide mankind toward a successful worldly life and Afterlife.
Quran is a book which covers a variety of topics to guide us in our day to day life as well as our life in a larger perspective. It tells us why we were created and what is the wisdom behind all that we see around us. 
Quran also tells us about the concept of Free-will, and today, God Willing, I will share what it says in this regard. 

In the Chapter 'the Women' (Surah An Nisa) Allah says:

4:79

What comes to you of good is from Allah , but what comes to you of evil, [O man], is from yourself. And We have sent you, [O Muhammad], to the people as a messenger, and sufficient is Allah as Witness.

Commentary:
The Messenger was sent to preach, guide, instruct, and show the Way,- not to drive people to good. That is not Allah's Plan, which trains the human will. The Messenger's duty is therefore to convey the Message of Allah, in all the ways of persuasion that are open to him. If men perversely disobey that Message, they are not disobeying him but they are disobeying Allah. In the same way those who obey the Message are obeying Allah. They are not obliging the Messenger; they are merely doing their duty. 

God has not given us intelligence to keep it unused and static. We are encouraged to seek out the Truth. We are exposed to the reality of life and death through the messengers. We are informed about the pros and cons of doing good and doing evil respectively. We are not forced into anything. That is the reason why many of us leave ourselves in our own hands and just keep floating wherever our own thinking and understanding lead us. We do not bother to look deep into the things around us. We do not take time to use our intelligence to ponder over the visible and clear signs of the Creator all around us and within us. 
Free-will does not mean something without a base. Free-will is something that enables you to choose from the options that are presented before you. 

In surah al Anaám (the cattle) Allah says:

6:107

But if Allah had willed, they would not have associated. And We have not appointed you over them as a guardian, nor are you a manager over them.

Commentary:
Allah's Plan is to use the human will to cooperate in understanding Him and His relations to us. This is the answer to an objector who might say: "If He is All-powerful, why does sin or evil exist in the world? Can He not destroy it? " He can, but His Plan is different, and in any case it is not for a Prophet to force any one to accept the Truth which he is inspired to preach and proclaim. 

There is indeed no compulsion in religion. 
The Truth has been laid open, clear and evident. The seekers are the ones who attain what they desire. 
This is Free-will. 
What you want you seek. What you desire you get. No one can ever force anyone into any ideology or belief. This is famous about Islam as a religion that no one was ever forced into accepting Islam. Those who accept it know what they are doing and when they take shahadah or the declaration of Faith they are asked whether they are doing it by their own will and with understanding or they are being forced into it. This is the beauty of Islam. Never did our Messenger Muhammad peace be upon him force anyone into Islam and that highly baseless allegation that Islam was spread by sword has already been proven wrong by non believers and believers alike.
This can be supported by Allah's words:
"There is not compulsion in religion," stated in Quran in the chapter surah Al Baqarah (the cow). 

And in Surah Yunus (Johan) Allah says:

 10:99

And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed - all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers? 

This is what is to be understood clearly. We have been given this Free-will to choose what we desire for ourselves. If we choose the path of Truth it is there before us. If we choose the path of falsehood it is also there. But, both the paths have different endings. 

Commentary: 
If it had been Allah's plan or Will not to grant the limited Free-will that He has granted to man, His omnipotence could have made all mankind alike; all would then have had Faith, but that Faith would have reflected no merit on them. In the actual world as it is, man has been endowed with various faculties and capacities, so that he should strive and explore, and bring himself into harmony with Allah's Will. Hence Faith becomes a moral achievement, and to resist Faith becomes a sin. As a complimentary proposition men of Faith must not be impatient or angry if they have to contend against Unfaith and most important of all, they must guard against the temptation of forcing Faith, i.e., imposing it on others by physical compulsion. Forced faith is no faith. They should strive. 


18:29


And say, "The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve." Indeed, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire whose walls will surround them. And if they call for relief, they will be relieved with water like murky oil, which scalds [their] faces. Wretched is the drink, and evil is the resting place.

Commentary:
Our choice in our limited Free-will involves a corresponding personal responsibility. We are offered the Truth: again and again is it pressed on our attention. If we reject it, we must take all the terrible consequences which are prefigured in the Fire of Hell. Its flames and roof will completely enclose us like a tent. Ordinarily there is water to quench the heat of thirst: here the only drink will be like molten brass, thick, heavy, burning, sizzling. Before it reaches the mouth of the unfortunates, drops of it will scald their faces as it is poured out.

In Surah Al Insan (the man) it is stated:

Indeed, this is a reminder, so he who wills may take to his Lord a way.

In Surah At Takwir :

For whoever wills among you to take a right course.

Commentary:
Allah is the Cherisher of the Worlds, Lord of Grace and Mercy, and His guidance is open to all who have the will to profit by it. But that will must be exercised in conformity with Allah's Will. Such conformity is Islam. 

Human Free-will is to choose and be responsible for the choice. But the limitation to this Free-will is your dependence on God. One can never escape the Kingdom of God. A creation can never deny the right of its Creator on him.

In Surah al Infitar ( the Cleaving Asunder) Allah says:

O man! What has seduced thee from thy Lord Most Beneficent?-
Him Who created thee. Fashioned thee in due proportion, and gave thee a just bias;
In whatever Form He wills, does He put thee together.
Nay! But ye do reject Right and Judgment!

Commentary:
Having given a limited Free-will, He gave us a just bias through our reason and our spiritual faculties. If we err, it is our will that is at fault. 

So, we are free to choose whatever course we desire but...every path that we choose has a destination. The straight path of Truth leads to the Pleasure of God and His Mercy in the form of Paradise. The path of falsehood leads to His displeasure and punishment of Hellfire. 
The choice is ours. There is no compulsion...it is free-will! Remember freedom? Freedom of speech, expression etc etc...they too have limitations and consequences and so does human Free-will. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What's your cage?



I distinctly remember from my childhood that my mother used to be a very cheerful and light-hearted person. She used to joke with us and even tease us. She used to share urdu couplets (poetry), jokes and instances with us from her childhood. She had many stories and incidents to share with us and we used to listen to her with much interest. Even till today, after it has been over 5 years that she left us to meet her Creator, we remember many of the things that she shared with us.
I do not remember her always acting like a grown up person and trying to maintain the discipline in the house. Even despite that we respected her and there was a lot of good governance in the house. She taught us not by lecturing around and scolding but by just being herself. 
I can remember the dignified way she dressed herself up, the way she walked and carried herself. I could never have guessed her age if someone would ask me then. She was smiling and cheerful and very child like with her children.

The same thing is happening to me. 

Yesterday night when my elder son said, "Mom! Everyday you tell us stories or read out to us. Today we are going to read stories to you." 
I said, "okay", and then my elder son started to read. 
The younger son is quite particular about grammar and the proper way of pronouncing words. He interrupted a few times and pointed out some mistakes. I decided to make him realize that first of all it is not polite to interrupt in the middle of something and secondly, it is sometimes just okay to ignore minor mistakes in others. 
When my elder son finished reading it was the younger one's turn. 
I decided not to point out his mistakes and signalled my elder one too about this. This was over. 
Then I offered to read one story to them. 
What I did was to make mistakes deliberately and that made them hilarious. This was something they had not expected. 
 I pronounced the names in the story backwards and used the opposites or completely different words in place of the words in the story. For example instead of saying the line as, "He rode on his horse and left."I said, "He rode on his cat and left. " This made them laugh so much that we really enjoyed that bedtime story session. I could not resist the temptation to put a lot of humor and wit in the process of reading the story to them. 
This served many purposes. First, it was a good experience with my children, second, I wanted to put the message across that it is sometimes good to ignore the mistakes and accept the person as he is. Thirdly, we must find ways to put a little humor and wit in our day to day lives to start and end it on a happy note. As mothers we must never be miserly in showing our love to our children wholeheartedly. Kissing, hugging, joking, teasing and becoming like them is what they enjoy most.
Age is nowhere to be seen. If I want to relate to my soon to be a teenager boy, and want him to be really frank with me and share his feelings with me without any fear or hesitation, then, I must be approachable to him. If I always try to "act" my age then I would distance him from myself and he would not feel comfortable with me. 
What's in an age? It is only the way you feel that determines how old or young you are. Nothing can stop you from being what you internally are. You like to play? Then play. You like to run? Then run. You like to eat ice-cream. Always do. You like to cuddle into your son's lap. Go ahead. You like to ask him to share his chocolate with you. Ask him. 
A mother is not just someone older and serious looking rather she is a friend and a companion all along for her children. 
What's your age is not a relevant question because it limits you to act in a certain way to a certain level. If you try to act according to your biological age and prentend looking responsible and serious you may not end up looking natural. The way you behave never determines your actual biological age. It only shows how you have learnt to behave over the years. What we have inside our hearts is our actual age. We all are sometimes the most helpless, innocent and loving creatures from inside but we try to wear a facade of position, relationships and authority to show that we have grown up. 
It is not our age but a cage that we confine ourselves in. 
This is one of the reasons why I am not keen into celebrating birthdays. The person puts a cut out of her biological age on the cake and blow it too, but in reality she is nowhere close to that age bracket. Can we not enjoy being that child like person in our daily life? 
She is much younger, more beautiful and more enthusiastic than what that figure shows about her! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Grass Root




In the wake of so many untoward happenings in the world a person is compelled to think about the root cause of all the unrest and disharmony. 

The irony is that those who talk about peace and freedom are completely ignorant of the basic definition of the terms. And, those who act in the name of religious extremism do not even know the basics of Faith. 
These two groups of people act according to their own set standards, whims and fancies.
They do not follow any rule or regulation either of the society or of their Faith.

Here an example would be helpful in explaining what chaos they have created.
A student takes admission in a college. He is now enrolled in the college and represents that institution. He is supposed to follow the methodology of the college, its rules and regulations as a student. But he prefers to roam around and refuse to accept any of the norms of the college. Neither does he study, respect the teachers nor does he go out of the college and continues to call himself the student wherever he goes.
What do you think should be done about such a student? Would the authorities of that college tolerate such a behaviour? Wouldn't it affect the other students there? Would not the name of that college get tarnished? The college will now disown the student and turn him out and refuse to accept him as their part. They will say that this particular bad student does not represent the whole of us. They will try to inform the society about their rules and regulations and tell them that such students are not supposed to continue with such a behaviour and we do not keep them in the premises to save the honour and prestige of the school.

Now, those belonging to a certain Faith, when they tarnish the image of their own Faith by doing exactly the opposite of what their Faith teaches, do you think the members of their Faith will tolerate that? No. 

But still the root of the problem remains.

There are many different Faiths on this earth. How many do you think practice their Faith very religiously? There have always been a certain number of people in each community that do exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. Moreover, many of the followers of various religions do not even know what their religion actually teaches!

How many Hindus do you think know what their holy books teach? How many of them follow it properly? Their own books tell that God has no image but they are so famous for worshipping idols! 

The most popular amongst all the Hindu scriptures is the Bhagavad Gita.

Consider the following verse from the Gita:

"Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures."
[Bhagavad Gita 7:20]

Vedas are considered the most sacred of all the Hindu scriptures. There are four principal Vedas: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda and Atharvaveda. In Yajurveda the following verse says:
"There is no image of Him."
[Yajurveda 32:3]

Likewise in other religions like Christianity and Judaism the followers of that Faith do not read, understand or implement the teachings in their life.

It is the same with Islam. Islam has basically five pillars which comprise of Shahadah (Declaration of Faith), Salaah (5 daily Prayers; which are a duty and a must for the Muslims), Fasting, Zakaat (the poor's due which is also a must for the Muslims who are financially capable) and Hajj (the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to the sacred House of Allah in Makkah).
All these tenets of Islam are its pillars without any of these the Faith will dwindle and might just collapse. According to the authentic traditions of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, if a person abandons prayers it is as if he is out of the fold of Islam. 

“Between a man and shirk and kufr there stands his neglect of the prayer.” (Narrated by Muslim in Kitaab al-Eemaan from Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)).

The point therefore sums up to clarify that in every religion and every community there are those who rebel, who do not abide by the laws, who do not take their stand seriously. Does this mean that now based upon the action of those few we are going to blame the entire community, the entire race and the entire Faith and torture the others who do not even dream of going against their Faith at least in the basic and fundamental values?
 
As for freedom...
No one in the society can claim the freedom to hurt any one especially when he or she knows that it is something held sacred and great in the eyes of the person. 
Why people want to make fun of others? Why do they try to incur and invoke hatred and disrespect? What do they gain out of mocking and degrading someone about whom even the non-believers have attested that he was the most kind and most forgiving person, a great leader and a preacher of peace and mercy?! 
An impressive tribute to Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him is in the very well written work of Michael H. Hart, "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History." He states that the most influential person in all history was Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, with Jesus second. Examine his actual words:

"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level."
[Michael H. Hart, THE 100: A RANKING OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS IN HISTORY, New York: Hart Publishing Company, Inc., 1978, page. 33.]

No one can justify killings and bloodshed and no one should justify the freedom to tarnish the image of a personality, who is not an ordinary one but a Prophet most revered and loved by his Ummah, either. 

When people will understand that freedom does come with some limits and that Islam is about peace and forgiveness, kindness and guidance only then we can hope to see some peace around. There is no room for extremism in Islam:

Allah warns believers against this danger and declares in the Qur’an that those who go extremes in religion have strayed from the true religion:
Say: “People of the Book! Do not go to extremes in your religion, asserting other than the truth, and do not yield to the whims and desires of people who were misguided previously and have misguided many others, and have themselves strayed far from the right path.” (Surat al-Ma’ida: 77)
The above verse so clearly tells the reader that Allah does not like those who transgress from His path and those who make their religion difficult by adopting extreme behaviours.
Here I would like to mention specifically that whether we digest it or not but there are enemies to the religion of Islam and they are working very vigorously to tarnish the face of Islam. I would like the readers to note that the web has many fake sites on Islam and when some people try to know more about Islam or just want to check on the verses of the Quran, they happen to fall for these unauthentic websites. I would post the links to some authentic websites for the ease of those who really want to know more about why we keep stressing that Islam is a religion of peace and not terror. Also, it is important to mention that when you read the Quran know that it is not an ordinary book. It was revealed on Muhammad peace be upon him over a span of 23 years. Some parts were revealed in Makkah and later in Madinah. There is a whole recorded history of all the events from the time of Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him and from the earlier time as well. There are many books on the life history of Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him and the traditions from his life shed light on the verses of the Quran, the time and place of their revelations and the context in which they speak. It will not be fair to take the verses out of context and derive own meanings from them. The study of Quran and Hadeeth is a science in itself. The Quran is an amazing book to read! It guides those who desire guidance.
May Allah accept my effort to clarify some points that were lurking in my mind regarding the false link of extremism with Islam and the misuse of the so-called freedom of speech and expression.
Thank you for taking time for reading! 
Some interesting links:
http://www.whyislam.org/muhammad/biography-of-muhammadpbuhby-a-non-muslim/
http://english.islamway.com/
http://www.whyislam.org/
http://www.thedeenshow.com
http://www.iera.org/
http://www.amazon.com/The-Sealed-Nectar-Biography-Prophet/dp/9960899551
http://www.darussalambook.com/history-of-islam-3-vol-set/

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Right Click!



It is indeed very easy to click a button on your computer or tap on the like or share button over your touchscreen phone or tab. It does not take any effort to do these small seemingly harmless actions. Some of us do them as a habit and just keep on liking or sharing things on the websites. 
What takes some effort and time is to think whether what we are liking and sharing forward is worth it or not. We should not do this heedlessly otherwise we would be contributing to the spread of false or wrong information. 
It is very easy to spend time on your laptop with a coffee mug on the side and just liking and sharing without bothering if the information you are carrying forward is true or not. 
The need of the hour (mainly because of the explosion of information on the internet which is easily accessible to all) is to seek authentic sources of information and knowledge. 
Many a times it happens that due to the spread of wrong information some person, organization, community or group has to suffer. 
People should act responsibly and take active part 

in seeking and spreading the Truth

in seeking and spreading the Word of Peace 
in seeking and spreading the Word of Guidance
the Word of Mercy and Healing
the Word of Justice
the Word of Faith

and the Word of God.

Until and unless each one of us will feel the responsibility to confirm the facts, to act sensibly and to spread forward only that which is true and based on facts, we will not be able to achieve peace within and around us.
When we need to seek all these sources of peace like truth, guidance, knowledge and justice, we first need to display them in our daily life.
When at home we should be teaching our children the value of honesty, real as well as virtual.
When we go out we should be carrying all these virtues with us and applying them in our dealings with those around us. Compassion, honesty, justice and ease both on screen as well as off it.
Today, a whole world is living out there on the net. We do have some responsibility as a netizen as well.
We must never underestimate the power of one click of ours...it reaches someone, it touches someone, it might make someone think in a certain way, feel in a certain manner and even act in a certain way.
Just a click of ours can do wonders like spread of Truth, knowledge, peace and wisdom or it can turn things around...
Let us be aware of the right move
the Right Click! 



Sunday, January 4, 2015

Celebrations!


It is indeed very difficult to convince anyone unless the speaker as well as the adressee possess an open heart and mind; open to realities, truth and facts. 
This is not a one-sided affair. We are not here to convince anyone but we have the responsibility to put forward the whole truth if we know it.
No one can seek the truth, the reality and the facts without seeking knowledge. Hence, knowledge is the basis for all discussions and interactions for exchange of ideas.
If ever we approach anyone for clarifying some fact we must first know what background that person hails from. There is no use  engaging in futile arguments and discussions when the other side is completely unaware or uninterested in the knowledge based facts and references.
The same logic goes for those who believe in celebrating the birthdays of Prophets. I said 'Prophets' because Jesus is a Mighty Prophet of God and his birthday is celebrated without any authentic historic proof that he was born on 25th December and the same is being done for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. 
We as Muslims, revere Prophet Jesus more than the Christians themselves because we send 'peace and blessing upon him' when we mention him and we are convinced about his being raised to the Heavens by Almighty God. We find it apalling to see a prophet crucified and looking so helpless and fragile. Prophets had been sent to give the message of Oneness of God and not to atone for the sins of Mankind.
When the Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ 'peace be upon him', they know that it is not at all backed by their bibles.
As for the birthday of our Last and Beloved Prophet Muhammad 'peace be upon him' there is not a single Hadith in the Sahihain (the authentic books of the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ ; Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim) which gives us the sign of celebration of his birthday, except that he used to fast on Mondays because he was born on that day. If we really do like to celebrate we must follow his footsteps and fast on the day that we believe to be the day of his birth.
Muslims should hold on to the Quran as the authentic source of knowledge and the sunnah of the Prophet to lead their lives. There are many Ahadith that are popular among the Muslims which they quote to prove that they are allowed to worship the saints at their graves, to celebrate the birthday of Muhammad ﷺ and do many other things that are not at all backed by Quran or Sahih Ahadith.
Before doing any act of worship or something that is related to your deen you must see if it is going in line with the teachings of the Quran and Hadith. 
Would the Prophet ﷺ like it if he comes by and sees all the things going on in the name of his birthday? He lived a very purposeful, simple and dignified life. All his life was devoted to the worship of his Lord Allah and to the propagation of Islam; his mission. 

And furthermore, he will see that no one is following the other tenets of Islamic lifestyle like Hijab, keeping the beard, praying five times daily, using the miswak (which was very very dear to him), holding on to Quran and sunnah in every aspect of life! 
There are many many things which a Muslim woman and a man should be doing and those things are much more important and rewarding than these celebrations.
If we really like to celebrate we can celebrate the name of Allah and after that the mention of His beloved Prophet ﷺ daily and that too 5 times daily! 
We need to repeat the adhan or call for prayer and see how the name of our beloved Prophet is being called out day and night along with the name of his Lord. 
This is some celebration!!
Look how when the Adhan is completed we are required to say a particular dua in which we praise the Prophet and ask for his shafaa'h or intercession on the Day of Judgment.



Look how whenever we listen to his blessed name our heart calls out "peace and blessings upon him". It is mentioned in sahih hadith that whoever sends blessings on him 10 times in the morning and 10 times in the evening will be blessed with his intercession on the Day of Judgment. Moreover whoever sends blessings on him once is blessed ten times!
It is called celebration in someone's name when you really love him and do not forget him in your daily life. 
Celebration on just one day and that too engaging in all that he would not approve of is nothing but ignorance. 
Also we celebrate him one day, and then, why do we forget him in our daily lives? Do we bother about the little things that he loved? Do we feel the love for him? Do we study his biography to know how he toiled and went through all sorts of pains to bring this deen to us?

If we really love him we must celebrate his mention on a daily basis. We must not forget that we recite the durood in our daily prayers. We should start reciting it with a conscious mind. 
Let us celebrate being Muslims daily. 
Let us celebrate the Praises of our Lord daily. 
Let us send blessings on our beloved Prophet day and night and reserve our cup at the Hauz al kausar.






The Fish and I: Ponder on this!

By a German Poet The other day, I went to the sea And asked the fish,  "Do you know who made the ocean and you in i...